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The USGS Water Science School

Water Science Pictures
Automated water-quality sampler

An automatic water-quality sampler.What if it was your job to stand by a river all night during a rainstorm and take a water sample every 30 minutes, hour after hour? From personal experience, I can tell you that it's not fun. But if the project you are working on demands that samples be collected during a rainstorm (which happens to be a very important time to collect water samples), then you would need some kind of system to do the work.

This picture shows a non-human assigned to the task. This is an automatic water sampler, and it is one that has some smarts to it. It has tubes going into the water and a pump to pull water through the tubes into the sampling bottles. It is programmed to take a sample at intervals during a storm when the river is at first rising and again later, where it's falling. During a storm a river tends to rise quickly at the beginning of the storm, reach a peak, and then slowly fall back to pre-storm levels. It is most important to get water samples at the beginning of the river's rise, as that is when substances are first flushed into the river. So, this particular sampler is programmed to take water samples maybe every 30 minutes when the river is rising quickly, every hour or so when it is peaking, and every four hours when it is falling back to normal levels. After the storm a hydrologist will visit the sampler, remove the samples (for analysis at the lab), and prepare the sampler for the next storm. The hydrologist might even give the sampler a pat on the back for doing such an admirable job under harsh conditions.

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Page Last Modified: Monday, 17-Mar-2014 11:03:09 EDT